Most of the stories you see that I post on AirlineReporter are those of grand adventures flying around the world in business class cabins. Not a bad gig. Every so often, I get people who seem quite upset that we do not write more economy reviews. “How about do reviews of cabins that most of us can fly in?!” I get that. I really do. First off, we do actually write quite a few economy reviews, and even I throw some out there when I see an interesting angle. This doesn’t mean that I don’t fly economy. I do… a lot.
When flying personally, I always fly economy (I paid $50 to upgrade to first class on Alaska Airlines once). I am not a person with means (shocking that blogging is not the best way to become rich), and I have no status with any airline or alliance. Heck, when airlines are flying me to a U.S. gateway airport to take a business class flight, 90% of the time I am flying in economy. Seattle to New York, Washington DC, LA, and even Miami — all in economy. And, oh boy, Miami.
The Seattle to Miami flight is the longest 737 flight in the continental U.S. and I have done it eight times in the last two years — all in the back of the plane. Do not get me wrong — I still enjoy flying and being flown in economy to take an epic flight is surely worth it. It’s just that I have lots and lots of miles in economy seats, but rarely write about them. Why? Well… they are kind of the same: boring.
ECONOMY REVIEW: The Background
I used to be a long-time subscriber of Car and Drive magazine. I didn’t get excited to read the new Geo Metro or Ford Taurus review. I wanted to see what won out between the Dodge Viper, Porsche 911, and the Corvette. I know what it is like to drive the econo cars, but I don’t know what it is like to drive the cool ones. Economy is not the Ferrari… it is the Honda Accord (what I drive, actually).
Plus, the difference between U.S. domestic economy is not as wide as that of international business class. When we have written a review, there aren’t many new angles to do on future flights. But let me try something. Over the last few years, I have put in more economy miles than I want to think about and let me try to do one review that sort of combines all of them. I can’t promise it will be exciting, but it might look familiar. Here we go!
ECONOMY REVIEW: Ticketing My Flight
Where to even look? It can be a full-time job trying to find the best deals out there. I tried not to spend too much time searching. Just checked a few sites to compare prices and time and then booked directly at the airline’s website. I went in to select my seat and all that was left were middle seats. Highly unlikely. I booked six months in advance and I am sure there were other seats open. Sure, the airline allowed me to pay an extra $85 for a “premium” seat (i.e. a few more inches of legroom and free booze — although I wasn’t going to be drinking during my 7:00 am flight). Since my ticket was $325 to begin with, I went with the free middle seat. It took me a good 30 minutes to get through the purchasing process since the website crashed twice. Once I purchased the ticket, it took two hours for me to get a confirmation email with my confirmation code and I was set.
ECONOMY REVIEW: Day of Flight
After I purchased my ticket, I kept going online to see if a window or aisle seat opened up. Nothing did. So, I checked in via the app and realized that my TSA PreCheck was not showing on my boarding pass. Oh hell no. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had been having really bad security lines (60+ min). Luckily, I was able to catch the airline via Twitter and they added my Known Traveler Number to my reservation. I had to re-check-in four more times, but finally it showed up on my ticket.
I arrived to the airport two hours early, but it only took me 15 minutes to get through the PreCheck line. On my way to the gate, I looked at the seats again — wow, look at all those open window seats now. Tricky airline, trying to get me to pay. 29F, back of the plane, but not in a middle seat. The real fun part — the flight was completely full, and the airline wouldn’t let people make aisle/window seat assignments until the last minute.
My ticket said that I board in “Zone B.” Heck if I knew what that meant. One airline I was B13, another I was in Zone 3, another I was row 15, and another seemed like a free-for-all. Random letters mean little to me anymore in knowing when I will actually board, but figured “B” is a low letter, so should be quick right?
Before boarding process started, we started getting yelled at about gate checking bags. Almost threatening-like. “YOUR BAG WILL NOT FIT, IF IT DOES NOT FIT, IT WILL BE BURNED. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD, GATE CHECK YOUR BAG NOW.” Nope. I am not going to let that happen. I was going to fight for overheadbin space — I was Zone B after all, right? Suckers board in later zones!
I hung around the gate (making sure not to block anyone and not be that annoying “gate lice”). First pre-boarding (kids and people needing help). Then first class. Then about 23 levels of premium people; quartz, frankincense, myrrh, bronze premium, and uber diamonds dipped in platinum, sprinkled with unicorn tears. I kid you not, over half the people were already boarded by the time they got to Zone A. This is when I realized that there were only two zones: A and B. It was game-on to have space for my bag. I am not overly aggressive, but close enough to not be last. When Zone B was called, I was about the 10th person back. Then… hurry up and wait.
Huge back-up in the jetway and it would be another 15 minutes before I found my seat. I was sweaty from anxiety about space for my bag, but there was plenty of room left — sweet. Oh. Guess who sat next to me. Imagine the worst passenger possible (large, talkative, sweaty, smells, etc) — that’s them. It didn’t help that the air was not going and we were delayed. And then delayed. Then pushed back — but that darn taxiway was jammed and delayed again. Good thing I had the annoying seven-minute safety video that was cute the first time I saw it, but not the 27th to watch.
ECONOMY REVIEW: The flight
There was no in-seat entertainment or shared screens, although they did have WiFi. I was able to pay $58.34 to log on and was able to reach speeds up to 0.34mb/s download and 0.01mb/s for upload. I could send texts, and tweet out things without photos. No cat videos or photos though.
About 30 minutes into the flight, they started the drink service. I had a choice of Coke products, coffee, and juices. There were also either peanuts, a snackpack (aka trail mix with seven pieces of food in it), or pretzels. I went with a warm Diet Coke, poured over ice. I went baller and asked for the full can. I got it — with a dirty look like I was involved in some scam. I went with pretzels and they were a bit salty and did almost nothing to help with hunger, but eating them burned about three minutes of flight time.
Then. Um. Kind of just sat there. Either staring out the window, staring at the seat in front of me. Then we hit some turbulence and that was kind of cool. I went to read the in-flight magazine (I miss SkyMall) and read all of the interesting stories — I burned about another six minutes.
I decided to get some rest, put my head on the sidewall, and drifted to a nice 15 minutes of sleep before some kids screamed behind me. Then back to sleep to have the pilot tell me that the Durdangi Cliffs were out the left-hand side of the plane. Ugh. I do not care.
Back to sleep to have the person behind me grab my seatback as leverage when they were getting up to use the restroom. Sigh — forget it. I wanted to break out my laptop, but with doofus one next to me taking up my arm room, and doofus two in front of me who reclined — that wasn’t going to happen. Heck, I had a hard enough time surfing on my phone.
Shortly before landing, they came through one more time to offer some water, but were walking by so quickly I couldn’t even make eye contact with them to ask for any. One attendant “ran” through the cabin with 20 cups and only gave out three by the time she was in the back. Thanks.
Then we landed. Since I was in row 29, figured I could just sit tensely waiting for the plane to empty. It did. And I got off at my destination. That’s about it.
ECONOMY REVIEW: Conclusion
Pretty darn exciting? Probably not too much. Really, this review could be used for quite a few of my recent economy flights. Not glamorous, and really more about getting me from one place to another. Of course flying is still cool, but it is nothing to write home about (or write a story on). Do not worry… if something interesting does come from one of my economy flights (I had no intention of writing this story, but it sort of happened), you will see it. Until then… I will enjoy my 4.5 hour economy flight I have coming up tomorrow and I bet it looks a lot like this story!